A lavish inaugural under police state conditions reminds us that 2005 began with the immoral war and disputed election that ended 2004. And we have other problems. The conditions of our political economy and our cultural arrogance could get much worse, and they will if our social intelligence and collective morality don’t get much better. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.
Furor over the 2004 vote may lead to reforms of a system that has always served ruling interests, despite democratic mythology. Our electoral setup is so corrupt that we might as well have let the puppet regime in Iraq count our votes. That savaged nation may suffer far more, physically, but the hypocrisy of its alleged democracy is almost on a par with our own.
While many justifiably criticize U.S. balloting imperfections , they are late in noticing that poverty and race loom large in whether people are able to vote at all. What is shameful in this belated awakening to electoral injustice is the hypocrisy of Democrats who told Ralph Nader’s supporters to take their democracy and shove it, but now squeal about the unfairness of Republicans. Chutzpah?
Casting votes and accurately counting them are important, but without real control over the process of what people are voting for, in the first place, such control means little or nothing, in the second place.
We elect presidents who never garner an actual majority of the electorate. Even the relatively large turnout of 2004 saw more than 40% of eligibles stay home, despite hysterical propaganda that said their lives were at stake. That’s just a little better than the vote in Palestine, where more than 50% of a stateless people did not participate. The miracle is that any Palestinians even bothered to vote; an occupying army, as in Iraq, ran an election that offered no opportunity for voters to tell the occupiers to get the hell out. Rather, they were offered candidates who had mostly been chosen or approved by those occupiers.
Under the real conditions of such elections, here or there, calling them democratic is merely placing an advertising label on the product to disguise the real contents of the package. In fact, we not only fail to meet the standards of democracy in other modern nations, but look pretty bad compared to the “cradle of western civilization”.
Some scholars estimate that even with slavery , class division and elite male domination, 10% of the population in ancient Greece actually participated in that primitive democracy. That didn’t mean shuffling to a polling place every four years, but active involvement in community life, through debate and decision making over its place in the world.
In other words, macho-homosexual Ancient Greece was far more democratic than effete, heterosexually obsessed America. If ten percent of us – thirty million people! – were actively involved in running our country, we might truly be a great democracy.
But we have even more problems than our fake freedom.
Our economy still depends on ordinary citizens amassing millions of dollars in debt, as industry turns nature into garbage in order to keep them shopping. Even more significant are the billions in daily foreign investment that enable us to maintain our colossus of consumption, though that becomes less inviting as our dollar declines relative to the euro. This potentially serious structural problem is hardly deemed newsworthy, though it has far more importance than most of the fear mongering fiction that is called news. Like the alleged Social Security “problem”.
Given the regime’s lust to put more middle class money into upper class pockets, and its critical need for new funds, an economic equivalent to the WMD fiasco is in full swing. Market vampires want to suck the blood out of the social security system, and they are making their most blatant attempt, by selling two big lies.
The first is that the system is in financial trouble. Of course, that’s true of the larger system within which SS exists, as the only safety net offered to American workers. That safety net can easily be strengthened for the future. But as long as the wealthy pay taxes at a lower rate than the middle class, and the Department of Defense budget stays bloated beyond any need, we may face bankruptcy of a system, and not just its one little safety net.
The second big lie is that privatization will help ordinary people get rich, by having their wages invested in the market. The Wall street shysters who brought us Enron and destroyed private pensions will now unselfishly create profits for even more workers. Sure. Then that money can be used by the workers, to purchase bridges, or maybe surplus WMDs.
Such fables, like previous lies about Iraq, Saddam, and other distortions that keep us confused, frightened and shopping, need to be countered by truthful reporting. But when corporate media acts as the public relations department of the regime in power, and the political opposition is useless for any thing more than serving as a slightly lesser evil, truth becomes just another commodity.
If we can believe polls, we now have the most unpopular re-elected president in history, who triumphed over the most unpopular opponent in history. No wonder we’re insecure. Maybe we should take a poll of South Americans, who seem to be doing a better job of democratically improving real social security.
Several nations have begun moving away from neo-liberalism and closer to social democracy. And rather than believe negative propaganda about anti-capitalism in Venezuela, we should be inspired by their movement to democratically take power from a wealthy minority, in order to improve life for the great majority.
That isn’t a novel idea; we once had such a populist movement here. Imagine Americans becoming hopeful, united and confident, instead of remaining frightened and weakly divided among themselves. Real democracy. Real security. An idea whose time may have come? Again?.